Recognizing unions; provincial election ahead

Lana Payne
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Unions have altered and helped shape the democratic landscape of our province and country.

From pushing for workplace and human rights, to fighting for improved working conditions and standards to advocating for a host of social reforms, unions have been part of making our nation and province a better place.

Unions fought for national programs like medicare and unemployment insurance.

They broke ground in the areas of equality and equity by negotiating pay equity and same-sex benefits long before the courts recognized these as rights.

And today, as in the past, unions are part of a larger social movement of change a movement dedicated to such causes as

public water, aid for developing countries and a clamp on corporate power.

Labour Day is the one time of the year this contribution is contemplated, recognized, analyzed and in some cases ridiculed.

Its a time when those who are active in the labour movement take stock, re-energize themselves, set priorities and plan for the coming year.

But for most, Labour Day is a signal summer is over, school is about to start and life is about to go back to a series of routines.

Its a time when the world starts paying attention again to the news, to politicians, to the decisions made around us.

And in our province that means the election campaign is about to kick into full gear.

Its an election that has few people questioning the outcome.

Danny Williams unless some catastrophe strikes his party will lead another majority government after October.

Whats still up in the air is how big that majority will be and who will provide the opposition so needed for democracy to work.

No leader, no matter how progressive, no matter how effective or results-oriented should have a free ride.

Checks and balances are needed.

Human nature dictates them. Danny Williams has done a good job as premier.

His timing and ability to take advantage of an opening some might use the word pounce are important characteristics in a leader and have been critical to his success.

He has also made mistakes.

The same fighter-instinct that resulted in the renewed Atlantic Accord and a victory over big oil has also caused much strife in terms of his dealings with the provinces largest unions.

But it seems the premier is working to put those days behind him.

He has given every indication he wants to mend his rocky relationship with organized labour.

A good leader learns from his or her mistakes.

A great leader builds something lasting from them a society worth leaving the next generation, a society based on real values of caring and sharing, a society that doesnt leave social development behind in the rush for economic growth and a society that recognizes people, families and community are more valuable than the demands of capital and corporate interests.

Danny Williams, despite his experience, despite all he has achieved, is still a work in progress.

He doesnt have all the answers. Certainly the troubles plaguing our rural communities are not easy to solve.

Despite his popularity and his many wins, voters have to decide how much power will be too much power.

The electorate will have to decide whether they want a

balanced legislature where the government is asked questions; kept on its toes; required to respond to warranted criticism, rather than criticism for the sake of criticizing.

If we are fortunate, that criticism will come from the progressive side of the spectrum because it would be a shame if the provinces wealth wasnt used to make life better for all citizens.

This election will be about democracy and whether it thrives or sputters; whether it breathes after October or whether it will be left solely up to non-governmental and civil society organizations to ensure.

True democracy needs both an effective elected opposition and healthy advocacy from outside of government.

If these are in place, Danny Williams will be a better premier.

So how to make sure this happens?

It means voters in certain districts have to collectively decide they are going to play a role in deciding democracy lives.

It means sizing up the political landscape and thinking, really thinking, about what the next legislature will look like.

It means taking the premier at his word when he says no district will suffer for electing an opposing member of the House of Assembly.

It means standing up for democracy. It means taking a stand.

It means understanding voting for democracy is not a vote against a popular premier.

It is a vote for a better premier, a better government a government where democracy shines; where its OK to disagree with Danny Williams because no one is right all the time.

It means taking a chance.

In some respects, it means being like Danny Williams fearless; unafraid to stand up for what you believe in.

Because if Danny Williams is one thing, it is audacious.

It means understanding that well all be better off, including Danny Williams, if after October, the legislature includes more than Progressive Conservatives.

(Have a safe Labour Day weekend.)

Lana Payne is a former journalist who is active in the labour movement.

Her column returns Sept. 16.

Organizations: Progressive Conservatives

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